Thursday 14 November 2019

Review: The Unthanks

Vicar St, Dublin

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

SINGER Rachel Unthank is eight months' pregnant. She's flanked by her sister Becky, to whom she imparts marriage advice as they both sing the traditional song 'You'd Better Be a Maiden as a Poor Man's Wife' completely unamplified, as Rachel's pianist husband Adrian McNally looks on.

Northumbrian collective the Unthanks are as singular and unique as their intriguing set-up. Most frequently described as folk, they cast their sonic net much further to encompass tender classical arrangements from a string quartet and mesmerising trumpet solos.

The musicianship is impeccable, but the icing on the cake is the Unthanks sisters and their gorgeous voices. The gobsmacking power of their stunning duets is nailed straight from the outset in the opening number and title track of their fourth album, 'Last'.

Love, loneliness and even cows all have their place in the haunting songbook of the Unthanks. 'The Gallowgate Lad' captures the act of confiding one's troubles to a stranger. In 'Queen of Hearts', Rachel sings of forsaking her family for love, all the more moving considering who's sharing a stage with her.

The Unthanks' remarkable ability to make pretty much any song their own, is illustrated by how they turn the sprawling prog-rock of King Crimson's 'Starless' into another meditative masterpiece. 'Lucky Gilchrist' is another highlight of a set crammed full of special moments.

The Unthanks continue their Irish tour in Limerick tonight, before continuing on to Galway, Newbridge and Belfast.

Irish Independent

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